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7 Common Leadership Styles and How to Find Your Own

Understanding different leadership styles helps to improve your relationships at work.

Learning about different leadership styles may sound like a straight up yawn fest but imagine the benefits when you can better anticipate your boss’s approach and expectations.

Being able to decipher different styles of leadership not only improves your ability to relate to authority but it may also have a more positive effect on your day-to-day work and help you identify the qualities or values you hold to be a successful leader.

Benefits of understanding leadership styles

Recognizing and understanding someone else’s leadership philosophy or management style may be the best way to get clearer on their expectations and anticipate their thought process. It may also give you an advantage when it comes to knowing what they value or what they find motivating.

Becoming knowledgeable about, and learning how to identify, different approaches to leadership may also encourage your own self-awareness levels regarding the type of leader you aspire to be or how you want to be perceived in your own leadership role.

So, where do you begin figuring out someone else’s leadership style or which leadership style fits you best?

7 common leadership styles with respective advantages and disadvantages

1. Autocratic Leadership Style

An autocratic leadership style, also known as authoritarian leadership, is characterized by individual control with limited input accepted from other team members. Autocratic leaders tend to make decisions and execute a strategy with little room for unwavering. Such leaders have a clear focus of their own and do not often solicit feedback or entertain additional ideas from others. An authoritative leadership style will exercise full control over any decision-making process, including policy and procedural matters.


  •       Communication and messaging are strong and with a clear vision.
  •        Expectations are well-defined and understandable.
  •        Decision making is efficient and quick.


  •         Opportunities may be missed by not soliciting feedback from team members.
  •         May cultivate a culture of micromanagement.
  •         Team members may not feel as valued or engaged.

2. Transformational Leadership Style

A transformational leadership style is one which is characterized by a leader who seeks to understand what motivates each team member and adapts their management style to accommodate the different motivations of their team. They set objectives based on longer term visions of the organization and have a strong level of commitment to the purpose of company.

Transformational leaders motivate their team by instilling that strong sense of purpose and passion in their work. They work to help team members connect and align their own personal goals with those that are geared to making the company successful as well. These leaders foster an environment in which team members are encouraged to challenge assumption and feel empowered to share feedback. Professional development is a priority.


  •         May be an effective way to increase employee engagement and job satisfaction, which may also lead to greater productivity.
  •         Encourages culture of growth where input and ideas are valued.
  •         Inspires team members by connecting them to purpose and passion.


  •         Big-picture focus can minimize essential details or overlook issues with day-to-day tasks and crucial details may get lost in the mix.
  •         Opportunity for employee burnout may be higher if work-life balance isn’t encouraged and monitored.

3. Pacesetting Leadership Style

A pacesetting leader takes initiative and often rolls up their sleeves to work alongside their team. They have very high expectations of themselves as well as their team and are often laser focused on the result or finished product. Pacesetting leadership is goal oriented, and deadline driven, with leaders who tend to set the example by being high achievers or high performers themselves.


  •         Can achieve or bring results quickly given the fast pace of work output.
  •         May be motivating for team members who thrive in a fast-paced environment.
  •         Provides an opportunity for team members to see their leader as a team mate as well as the boss.


  •         Often promotes a high stress environment due to quick pace which can lead to burnout.
  •         A tunnel vision approach to tasks can create an environment where it is difficult to build trust or cultivate relationships.
  •         Opportunity for error increases when working at a fast pace.

4. Democratic Leadership Style

A democratic leadership style emulates the meaning of its root word, “democracy,” which means “run by the people.” This is also called participative leadership due to the high value placed on team participation.

Although democratic leaders still make final call, there is heavy emphasis on gathering input from others before decision making occurs. A democratic leadership style distributes responsibility in a way that empowers others to become involved in achieving objectives and facilitates decision making through vehicles such as group discussions.


  •         Highly inclusive and collaborative model that values or promotes new ideas.
  •         Fosters an environment conducive to brainstorming which can lead to more creative solutions.
  •         Beneficial for relationship building and offers an effective space for building trust.


  •         Emphasis on heavy level of team participation can lengthen decision making process.
  •         Can further emphasize an unhealthy group dynamic, if one is present, which can stall productivity and result.

5. Coaching Leadership Style

A coaching leader invests time and energy into developing others. They help team members understand the importance each person holds and how each role plays a part in the overall team strategy. Coach leaders are attuned to identifying and optimizing individual strengths while simultaneously providing constructive feedback to help improve upon any weaknesses. It is a balanced approach that focuses heavily on personal development and a person’s long-term potential.


  •         An effective approach to growing confidence levels of individuals as well as teams.
  •         Empowers a team spirit type of environment where everyone has a role and understands how working together yields greater success.
  •         Fosters tight-knit groups that have a high sense of accomplishment.


  •         Can be a time-consuming leadership style due to its highly personalized nature, which may also lead to time management issues
  •         Requires team members to be open to change, challenge, and personal development.

6. Delegative Leadership Style

Delegative leaders, known for a laissez-faire leadership style, delegate initiative to their team members and allow them the freedom to make decisions on their own. This style of leadership is the most hands-off approach due to the high level of autonomy that it provides. Although laissez-faire style leaders allow for such freedom and may not participate in all decision-making activities, they often provide necessary tools and resources and still bear overall responsibility for outcomes.


  •         Offers great visibility and fosters growth opportunities for team members who desire to showcase their talents or new skills.
  •         Can be an impactful way to build trust.
  •         Often provides a higher level of flexibility.


  •        May lead to too much ambiguity or poorly defined roles and expectations.
  •         Productivity levels can lower.
  •         May be more difficult to develop team cohesiveness.

7. Affiliative Leadership Style

An affiliative leadership style seeks to promote team building through positive interactions and a harmonious environment. An affiliative leader, also referred to as a facilitative leader, is one who values personal connection, a sense of community and trust to build cohesive teams and problem solve.

It is a sensitive style of leadership that connects team members and seeks to understand individual emotions to maximize the well-being of all, personally and professionally. Affiliative leaders will motivate using praise and encouragement and they embrace creativity and change, especially during times of organizational transition or challenge.


  •         May positively impact team morale and retention due to high level of focus on employee well-being.
  •         Fosters trust and creates a safe environment for team members to share ideas.
  •         May provide stability during times of organizational transition or change.
  •         Can reduce workplace stress.


  •         Putting a significant amount of focus on positive feedback may deter from providing constructive direction and stifle areas for improvement.
  •         May cause animosity if it’s perceived that under-performing team members are receiving encouraging messages over being held accountable.

Although these seven types of management styles are often considered the most common leadership styles, there are certainly other personal and professional qualities that can influence a leader’s ability to direct and motivate result.  Some people may bring a blend of different types of leadership styles to the workplace as well. 

Perhaps you are even noticing different ways that you may like to blend certain approaches as you craft your own leadership style.  Management styles are often built over time and can be influenced by factors such as personality trait, previous mentors and life experience. 

In the long run, no matter the style, great leaders tend to share the common goal of wanting to achieve result – although their paths of getting there may greatly differ!